Monday, December 15, 2014

gift ideas

I am not Christmas shopping this year, but if you are and have not finished yet, I have three suggestions for you.  The first is the game Story Cubes.  It is a game that encourages creatity and is appropriate for ages 6 and up.  I have played with adults, teens, and children.  It is non competitive as well, which is a nice change from some games.  There are several different versions, and I have seen it at Target, though I bought mine at Barnes and Noble several years ago.  
The second game I would recommend is one of the versions of the game Spot It! made my BlueOrange games.  I got Spot It Jr! for two different families last year for Christmas, and want to get one for myself.  It is a fast game, where just because you are older does not mean you will win.  I have found some versions of this game at Target.

My third game idea is one of the Brain Box games.  I found this one last year at Toys R Us when I was helping with my dad's Christmas shopping.  It also has a variety of topics-starting with the ABCs and colors.  Again, it is a good game for a mixed age group.

All of these games would be great gifts for a variety of children and families.  I like them because they are educational, but also because they are easy to learn and you don´t get bogged down learning how to play.  Also, the games are not long and drawn out, which could also make them ideal for a classroom on a day when students are not able to get to go outdoors because of the weather. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas is coming

Even though it doesn´t seem like December to me (Guatemala is much warmer than Minnesota this time of year), there are other evidences of the coming holiday.  One day my friend and I decorated Christmas cookies.  I hear Christmas carols in English or Spanish when I am out and about.  There is this giant Christmas tree in Parque Central.

Nativity scenes are not super common, but this a big one that was just set up, also in Parque Central. 
Friday was the first day of Las Posadas.  Normally it is an evening event, but at the home for elderly ladies, they do the activity in the afternoon.  Several people carry Mary and Joseph.  They read some from the gospel of Luke, then walk to a posada (a home), sing some more, then place Mary and Joseph in a special spot and have a snack.  The next day they do it all again, moving Joseph and Mary to the new posada.
What I am not doing this year is Christmas shopping, thinking about preparing a big meal for Christmas, or sending Christmas cards.   I am also not anticipating a break from school or having to decide which holiday events that I am going to choose to participate in.  A different feel to the Christmas season, for sure.

Monday, December 8, 2014


The past couple of weeks I have been spending my mornings at the Hogar de Ancianas (a home for elderly women) here.  It is another way to practice what I have learned in my weeks of language school.  Most mornings, I help some of them get to breakfast, then after breakfast I help them to the room where many like to sit in the sun to get warm.  Then I might help in the kitchen, the laundry, or other miscelaneous tasks.  When there is not a job for me, I sit with the ladies and talk with them.  Around lunch time, I help get the ladies to the dining room and then assist in serving lunch.  Helping out is a way to practice my Spanish, but it is also a good reminder that getting old is not for the faint of heart. 

Monday, December 1, 2014


I kept a thankful book this year again.  Last year I made thankful books for a bunch of people, this year I only made books for my teacher and myself.  Here are some of the things I have been thankful for this past month.

  • my health
  • my family
  • new friends
  • generous people who gave or lent me money when my purse was stolen
  • a good Spanish teacher
  • the Internet as a means to communicate with those far away
  • generous people
  • a place to celebrate Thanksgiving with other Americans
  • I got my passport replaced in one day
  • my visa is renewed
  • the Bible
  • books to read
Are there any things you are really thankful for this year?

Friday, November 21, 2014

feeling at home

I have been here for three months, and this last week I got to do a few things that made me feel at home. 
1.   Sunday I was in the capital and attended a completely English speaking church service.  I usually go to a service only in Spanish, so this was a great treat.
2.   On Tuesday I got to go to an American school in the capital.  I spent the morning visiting the elementary classrooms.  A part that I really enjoyed was just relaxing in the school library that afternoon reading magazines in English.
3.    I spent a few days at the apartment of an American friend.  It felt homey and comfortable.  It was a blessing to be able to relax there.
4.   And finally, returning to Xela felt like home, too.  It is funny how just three months in a place makes it feel like the place where I belong.  I was glad to see familiar faces and know where things are. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

what I have learned

I finished over 250 hours of Spanish classes last week.  Besides learning more Spanish (and I feel like I have learned a lot), I have learned some things that should help me be a better teacher.
1.  If my student doesn't understand, it doesn't mean that they are not trying.  Some days at the end of class I was more than ready for a break.  I wanted to learn the concept, but sometimes I just needed more time to understand.
2.  A positive teacher-student relationship is very helpful.  I really liked my teacher, so I was more motivated to work hard and try to understand.
3.   Context and prior knowledge are really important.  When a sentence or word is not in a broader context, I sometimes have no idea what it means.
4.    Practice, practice, and more practice is so necessary.  I am more fluent than I was eleven weeks ago, but I need lots more practice to get better and build my confidence.
5.   The manner in which correction is done makes a big difference.  It is necessary to correct, but one teacher I had made me want to quit talking because I was afraid that I was going to make a mistake.
6.   Tests can shake a student's confidence.  I did not have any tests until my last day, but I was nervous about taking that test.  I was afraid I would forget everything and do poorly, disappointing both my teacher and myself.  Thankfully, I did well.
7.   Build on a student's interests when possible.  I like to write, so when I got to write stories and in my journal, it didn't seem like a chore.  My speaking practice centered around topics I was interested in.  One day my teacher brought in an article about a well known author because she knew I liked to read.  All these things helped me stay engaged in the learning process.